Ellagic acid

Ellagic acid

For Patients & Caregivers

How It Works

Ellagic acid is found in many foods that are part of a healthy diet, but there is no evidence to support its use for cancer treatment.

Ellagic acid is a naturally occurring compound called a tannin, found in red raspberries, strawberries, pomegranates, and walnuts. In laboratory studies, ellagic acid showed  antiviral, antibacterial and antioxidant and cancer-preventive properties.

Small clinical studies have shown that ellagic acid may lower cholesterol and decrease lipid peroxidation in patients with metabolic syndrome; and may help restore cognitive performance associated with mild age-related decline. Consuming red raspberries may help improve endothelial function.

Purported Uses
  • To prevent cancer
    Although laboratory and animal studies suggest that ellagic acid has anti-cancer properties, human data are lacking.
  • To lower cholesterol
    One study found that consumption of a drink made with freeze-dried strawberry powder for 4 weeks lowered total cholesterol and LDL levels in obese women with metabolic syndrome. Further research is needed to confirm this effect.
Do Not Take If
  • You are taking drugs that are substrates of Cytochrome P450: Ellagic acid inhibits cytochrome P450  2A2, 3A1, 2C11, 2B1, 2B2 and 2C6 enzymes, and may increase the risk of side effects of these drugs. Clinical relevance is not known.
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For Healthcare Professionals

Clinical Summary

A phenolic compound derived from ellagitannins commonly found in red raspberries, strawberries, pomegranates, and walnuts, ellagic acid has antiviral, antibacterial and antioxidant properties (1) (2) (8). Small clinical studies have shown that it may lower cholesterol and decrease lipid peroxidation in patients with metabolic syndrome (7); and may help restore cognitive performance associated with mild age-related decline (18). In addition, consumption of red raspberries was associated with improvements in endothelial function (19); and a pomegranate extract may have beneficial effects by inducing ellagitanin metabolite formation and changing microbiota (20).

Pre-clinical studies indicate anticarcinogenic effects of ellagic acid against liver, esophageal, prostate, and colorectal cancer cell lines (3) (4) (5) (6). It was also shown to induce apoptosis and potentiate all-trans retinoic acid myeloid differentiation therapy in human leukemia HL-60 cells (9). In another study, pomegranate-derived ellagitannins exhibited anti-aromatase activity and suppressed testosterone-induced breast cancer cell proliferation, but ellagic acid did not have such effects  (10).
In an exploratory study of patients with biochemically recurrent prostate cancer, grape skin comprising ellagic acid, quercetin, and resveratrol was reported to be safe and to affect a non-significant increase in prostate-specific antigen doubling time (21). Further research is needed to assess the anticancer potential of ellagic acid.

Food Sources

Red raspberries, strawberries, pomegranates, walnuts

Purported Uses
  • Cancer prevention
  • Hypercholesterolemia
Mechanism of Action

Ellagic acid appears to inhibit chemical-induced esophageal carcinogenesis in animals (11). It down-regulates insulin-like growth factor IGF-II (6) and activates p53/p21 expression, leading to cell cycle arrest at the G1/S phase and apoptosis (12). In vitro studies report that ellagic acid protects cells from oxidative DNA damage caused by hydrogen peroxide and bleomycin (8). Ellagic acid’s ability to induce detoxification enzymes NADPH and quinone reductase contribute to some of its chemopreventive activities (13). Conversely, certain cytochrome P450 enzymes are inhibited by ellagic acid, preventing other carcinogens from being metabolized into more mutagenic forms (14) (15).

Herb-Drug Interactions
  • Cytochrome P450 substrates: Ellagic acid inhibits cytochrome P450  2A2, 3A1, 2C11, 2B1, 2B2 and 2C6, and can affect the intracellular concentration of drugs metabolized by these enzymes (14) (15). Clinical relevance is not known.
Dosage (OneMSK Only)
  1. Akiyama H, et al. Antibacterial action of several tannins against Staphylococcus aureus. J Antimicrob Chemother 2001;48:487-91.

  2. Stoner GD, et al. Isothiocyanates and freeze-dried strawberries as inhibitors of esophageal cancer. Toxicol Sci 1999;52(2 Suppl):95-100.

  3. Adams LS, Zhang Y, Seeram NP, Heber D, Chen S. Pomegranate ellagitannin-derived compounds exhibit anti proliferative and anti-aromatase activity in breast cancer cells in vitro. Cancer Prev Res. 2010 Jan;3(1):108-113.

  4. Boukharta M, Jalbert G, Castonguay A. Biodistribution of ellagic acid and dose-related inhibition of lung tumorigenesis in A/J mice. Nutr Cancer 1992;18:181-9.

  5. Doyle B, Griffiths LA. The metabolism of ellagic acid in the rat. Xenobiotica 1980;10:247-56.

  6. Liu Y, Yu S, Wang F, et al. Chronic administration of ellagic acid improved the cognition in middle-aged overweight men. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2018 Mar;43(3):266-273.

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